Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to a further 18 months’ house arrest by a court in Yangon’s Insein prison on Tuesday. The leader of the National League for Democracy, she has been detained for over 13 of the past 20 years, mostly under house arrest.
The court found Daw Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of violating the conditions of her house arrest, after an uninvited man spent two nights there in early May. Under Section 22 of Myanmar’s State Protection Act of 1975, she was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, commuted to 18 months under house arrest. This was less than the maximum five years’ imprisonment allowed by law.
Amnesty International’s Secretary General Irene Khan described the verdict as “shameful”, adding that “her arrest and trial and now this guilty verdict are nothing more than legal and political theatre.”
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s first period in detention began in July 1989 as the Myanmar government intensified its crackdown on nationwide pro-democracy protests that had begun a year earlier. Her house detention order was set to expire on 27 May 2009 but she was arrested and placed on trial earlier that month. The trial concluded on 28 July.
“The Myanmar authorities will hope that a sentence that is shorter than the maximum will be seen by the international community as an act of leniency,” said Irene Khan. “But it is not, and must not be seen as such, especially by ASEAN or the UN. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi should never have been arrested in the first place. The only issue here is her immediate and unconditional release.”
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is one of more than 2,150 political prisoners in Myanmar. Amnesty International considers her to be a prisoner of conscience. She was awarded the 2009 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience award on 27 July 2009.
Her sentencing comes in the midst of ongoing human rights violations by the military against ethnic minority civilians. In early June the Myanmar army staged attacks and took Karen civilians for forced labour in Kayin State. This resulted in over 3,500 refugees fleeing to Thailand.